Wednesday, October 7, 2009


I believe stories are everywhere. Whispers from heredity, the landscape of neighbors, closed lives of strangers.

One recent Saturday morning, as we picked up trash in a community cleanup, we walked past this yard. I put down my heavy black plastic bag and took off my gloves to take a picture.

I was slower on my side of the street than Denny was on his because it was a beautiful day on a street I'd never walked and who knew when I'd walk it again? My camera needed pictures of flowers and rocks, like the bank of stone taming the slope behind this house.

The homeowner was burning juniper logs. He had a pile left to burn plus an entire huge dead oak which lay the width of his lot in back. But he was happy to stop and receive compliments. After he talked about earthmovers and boulders, I asked about the oak, had it been sick? No, it used to stand where the house stood now.

I hate to see dead giants, but it was a relief to know mortality wasn't oak wilt. Was he going to chop it for firewood? Well, he didn't know. The builder had promised to take it away but that wasn't going to happen now. No, it wasn't bankruptcy. The guy had been building the house for his own, just the way he wanted. It was almost finished but something happened and he had to sell. Two months later, he came home and shot his wife then killed himself.

No answers, just story leaking from a dead tree.


  1. My oak trees have so many stories. I know they do. They whisper sometimes to me but only in my most aware moments can I speak oak and understand.

  2. My husband would be happy to saw that oak tree for firewood. He's a builder, by the way, and I'd like to think he could have figured out a way to save the oak. Build around it somehow. It's such a sad thing, chopping down trees. I wonder if this economy contributed to the tragedy. A lot of builders and developers are in a major bind.


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